Status report on EVM and its reality check

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Screenshot from ECI status report on EVM published on May 9, 2017

The above screenshot taken from recently published Status Report on EVM from Election Commission of India (ECI). The full report can be found by clicking here. The paragraph stating that “Currently, in the USA, the Direct Recording Machines are used in 27 states, among which paper audit trails are used in 15 states”  seems partially true. Yes, EVMs are used in USA according to respective provincial legislation. More details about EVMs, the province use them, how many constituency use them, where the VVPAT is used; all this information can be found by visiting by www.verifiedvoting.org. In the description of website it states thatVerifiedVoting.org is a non-partisan non-profit organization that advocates for legislation and regulation that promotes accuracy, transparency and verifiability of elections” which seems promising that this organization consist of technical and social experts from different institution and organizations. 

In India, we are lacking of this kind of institution which can give independent opinion and analysis about the challenges we face in politics vendetta. This can be because of political pressure/influence, less social awareness, work culture or whatever you can name it of. We can ignore all these threats and enjoy the holiness thrown at us from political parties, and be happy with the filtered government policy implementation. 

The status report was prepared before (on May 9, 2017) all political party meeting (on May 12, 2017) and ECI had already decided the path they will be going for. The report mentioned some examples of countries where EVMs were used and most of them have discontinued except for USA as discussed in above screenshot. After visiting verifiedvoting.org, I found following map about usage of EVMs across various states in USA. 

Map of voting mechanism across different province in USA. Source: www.verifiedvoting.org

Interestingly, Massachusetts switched to paper ballot for 2016 election where DREs without VVPAT were used in 2014. After going through the map and the list, there are 29 provinces which use DREs partially or completely or with other combinations. NOT all of 29 provinces used DREs solely. 

Out of 51 province in USA: 

  • 5 use DREs without VVPAT (similar to we use in all across India) 
  • 7 use mix of paper ballot and DREs without VVPAT 
  • 3 use mix of paper ballot, DREs with and without VVPAT 
  • 12 use mix of paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT 
  • 1 use DREs with VVPAT only 
  • 1 use mix of vote by mail and DREs with VVPAT 
  • 3 vote by mail only 
  • 19 use paper ballot only 

After reading the text “VVPATs are used in 15 states” on status report, it made me feel like these provinces use DREs with VVPAT only so I decided to dig into it. There is only one province in USA use only DREs with VVPAT across province. After looking at the detailed map of a province and constituency where combination of voting methods are used, it is distributed across province which varies from province to province e.g. Utah uses DREs with VVPAT in about 2/3 of province and vote by mail in rest. 

While writing the status report, ECI made sure that all the positiveness about EVM are included. They also mentioned that how EVMs had been used in The Netherlands, Germany and Ireland but left to us find out that why they discontinued. Report included incomplete data about usage  EVMs in USA, a normal user can perceive that 27 (instead of 29) province in USA use EVMs while 15 of them use EVM with VVPAT. At present in India, we use EVMs without VVPAT and comparing it with USA (another country in World to use EVM) where only 5 province use the same is not comparable.
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